[February 1st] Singapore jails South African for smuggling rhino horns

A Singapore court sentenced a South African man to two years in jail on Friday for smuggling rhino horns, the heaviest sentence ever handed down in the city-state for smuggling wildlife parts.

Gumede Sthembiso Joel was arrested at Singapore’s Changi airport in 2022 after authorities found 20 rhino horns weighing 34.7 kilogram in his bags.

Sniffer dogs detected the contraband in his baggage while he was traveling from South Africa to Laos through Singapore.

They were worth about Sg$1.2 million (US$895,000) — the city-state’s largest seizure of rhino horn.

The 33-year-old was handed the sentence after pleading guilty to two charges of transiting with rhino horns without a valid permit.

“This is the heaviest sentence meted out in Singapore to date for a case involving the smuggling of wildlife parts,” Singapore’s National Parks Board (NParks) said in a statement on Friday.

After undergoing forensic analysis, 18 horns were determined to be from 15 different white rhinos, while another two horns were from a single black rhino, NParks said.

Rhinos are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and international trade in their horns is prohibited.

Home to nearly 80% of the world’s rhinoceroses, South Africa is a poaching hotspot, driven by demand from Asia.

The government said 448 of the rare animals were killed across the country in 2022, only three fewer than in 2021 despite increased protection at national parks.

Rhino horns are considered status symbols and believed to have medicinal properties in parts of Asia. They are also carved into jewellery and household items including combs, buttons and belt buckles.

Source: VN Express